The High Court order to grant Limon six months' bail and ensure his proper treatment has brought relief not only to Limon's family but also to his villagers and well-wishers. Meanwhile, The Daily Star's special correspondent Morshed Ali Khan visited Limon's village in Rajapur upazila of Jhalakathi district and talked to around 150 people--farmers, traders, teachers, leaders of political parties (both Awami League and BNP) and even children. They all said Limon was innocent.
At around 4:00pm on March 23, Tokacher Jamaddar, a septuagenarian farmer of Jamaddar Hatkhola in Chhaturia village of Jhalakathi district, had just finished his day's work when two Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) personnel arrived at his doorstep. The armed Rab men wanted Tokacher to identify a young man lying by the river Sandhya with a bullet wound. Tokacher followed the men to the spot, some 50 metres from his house, and had a proper look at the motionless youth clad in blood.
“What have you done?” Tokacher cried out at half a dozen Rab men present there. “He is Limon, our Tofazzal's son and a brilliant student of Kathalia college. He has nothing to do with any misdeed.”
Tokacher and his wife Zaida Begum narrated how the Rab personnel reacted when they learnt that they had just shot an innocent boy while looking for one of the most wanted criminal of the area Murshed Jamaddar and his associates. (See the side story)
“When I told them that Limon is innocent, there was a panic among the Rab personnel,” said Tokacher, “One of them told me it was an accident. As the sun was setting they called a local boatman to send wounded Limon away with some of the officers.”
Zaida Begum said Limon was a promising child who worked hard to pay for his studies and support his family. “He tutored children of the area and toiled in the fields whenever he was free,” she said, adding, “For any parents he is an ideal child.”
On the day, Limon was home preparing for his upcoming final exams. Towards the afternoon his mother told him to get the family calf which went astray as high tide flooded the grazing field next to their house. Limon found the calf at a higher point near a small culvert just across the field. Accompanying him was his neighbour 12-year-old Abir. Having found the calf Limon casually sat on the railing of the culvert.
Suddenly, two Rab men appeared on the spot on a motorbike and grabbed Limon by his shirt. They separated Abir and dragged Limon some 15 metres behind banana trees. By then several more Rab personnel arrived on motorbikes.
“One of the Rab men pointed his pistol at Limon's head wanting to know the whereabouts of Murshed Jamaddar when terrified Limon told him that he was only a student,” said Limon's mother, who alerted by the children of the area rushed across the field for her son. “The Rab officer did not ask any other question. He shot Limon point-blank at just above his left knee,” she said.
Limon's uncle Mohazzel Hossain, a matchmaker by profession, also rushed to the spot as by then there was a rumour that Limon was shot dead. As he approached the remaining Rab officers and identified himself as Limon's uncle, they severely beat him in front of villagers. Mohazzel sustained eight fractures in his left leg from the beating.
The March 23 incident at an isolated place only five minutes' walk from Limon's home not only left the boy crippled for life but also shattered the dreams of the family aspiring to climb the ladder of success from abject poverty.
Limon's mother Henora Begum, father Tofazzal Hossain struggled hard to educate their two sons Hemayet Hossain Sumon, a BA final year student, Limon Hossain, a HSC student of Accounting Trade and Lucky Akhter, a BA student.
While every person in the area, including officials of Rajapur Police Station knew about Limon's innocence, Rab was not sitting idle. Its public relations wing at the time claimed that Limon was with a group of most wanted criminals, including Murshed Jamaddar. As the elite force raided the area on a tip off, the criminals opened fire. Since Limon was with the criminals, he received the bullet in a cross fire, Rab said.
Rab Deputy Assistant Director Corporal Majharul Islam, Nayek Moktadir Hossain, Nayek Prahalad Chandra, Soldier Kartik Kumar Biswas and Costable Md Abdul Aziz participated in the operation on March 23. They were hell-bent to save their skin and prove Limon's association with a notorious gang that has been successfully eluding the elite force for years.
Two cases were filed by Rab with Rajapur Police Station accusing Limon of obstructing on-duty law enforcers and possessing firearms. As soon as Limon's story came to light, Rab embarked on recruiting witnesses in the area who would testify against Limon. Capitalising on the situation, petty criminals as well as drug addicts came forward to denounce Limon. With one leg amputated, 16-year-old Limon is now facing the wrath of the law.
Meanwhile, after days of dilly-dally refusal to accept any case from Limon's mother against the Rab men, Rajapur police eventually recorded a case after it was directed by a court of justice. In the case, Limon's mother accused the six Rab personnel of maiming her son.
On Tuesday, Rajapur police got Limon released from Dhaka Pangu hospital and produced him before a senior judicial magistrate in Jhalakathi, 220 kilometers south of the capital. The Magistrate sent Limon to jail asking authorities to organise his treatment there. He was later shifted to Barisal Medical College Hospital prison cell.
While Limon was being framed in false cases, a top official of the Rab intelligence arrived at the village on April 12 to investigate the matter. According to Limon's mother and villagers, the official of the enquiry team was so moved by the findings that he offered Limon's mother Tk 5000 as a gesture of goodwill.
“I did not want to accept the money but the Rab official insisted in front of the villagers,” said Henora Begum.
Even the Director General of Rab Mokhlesur Rahman on April 11 said Limon Hossain is the victim of a 'shootout' between Rab and criminals. “Limon is a young boy, not a notorious criminal but an accused in a criminal case. He just became the victim of the incident,” he said.
The criminal case the Rab DG mentioned was filed following a family feud over land, in which almost all of Limon's family members were accused.
The top level Rab intelligence officer was not alone to sympathise with Limon. The entire staff and students of Limon's college, farmers, villagers, senior citizens, children, traders, leaders of the local government (both Awami League and BNP), and even beggars came forward to help Limon obtain treatment. Students and villagers formed human chains to protest maiming of Limon.
Abu Shahan, about 70 years of age and former Chairman of the area for 20 years, said, “We are happy to see Rab doing an excellent job but it was a terrible mistake to maim this young man who we all know as a polite and meritorious student coming from an extremely poor family.”
Md Nashir Uddin Mahmud, principal of Limon's college told The Daily Star that Limon was an ideal student loved by all the staff. “His attendance in the college was over 90 percent and his class performance was excellent. We never heard of any report of his involvement with any untoward incident. I am deeply shocked for what he went through,” said Mahmud.
Atiqur Rahman, training Instructor of the college, Mrinal Kanti Mandal, Shekhor Chandra Halder, Mobarak Ali, teachers of the school and college sections, unanimously expressed their sadness at the incident.
The most interesting part of Limon case was that Rajapur police produced charge sheet against Limon and seven absconding others including Murshed Jamaddar for possessing firearms and obstructing law enforcers.
While the police officers refused to comment on Limon's case on record, unofficially they admitted Limon's innocence. Yet Limon has been put through the grinding process of the state mechanisms.
Limon's sister Lucky Akhter said the family had never known luxury. The small house they live in the village is rickety and poorly furnished. Limon's study area included a broken shelf, a wobbly chair and table at the corner of an earthen veranda.
“We thought we would be able to start working soon as we finish our studies and bring some joy to the family,” said Lucky, “ But this incident has shattered our dreams.”
A High Court bench yesterday following a bail petition filed by Ain O Salish Kendra, a human rights organisation, granted bail for six months to Limon. The court also directed the government to arrange his treatment at one of the country's best hospitals as per Limon's choice. It also asked the government to bear all costs for the treatment.